Yes, you can. With a strong dog bite claim, you can recover compensation from a dog attack in Iowa, even if the dog owner was not at fault. In 2019, insurance companies paid out millions of dollars for 136 Iowa-based dog bite claims.
All told, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., and the rate of dog-bite injuries is highest among children 5 to 9 years old. The probable reason for the vulnerability of young children is that they are not old enough to understand the need to avoid provoking a dog. Children can suffer lifelong emotional scars from a dog attack.
Scope of Iowa’s Dog Bite Law
The Iowa state legislature passed a specific law to deal with dog bites. Under the Iowa dog bite statute, a dog owner (and certain other parties described below) is liable for all damages caused by a dog if:
- the dog is observed harassing, injuring, or killing a domestic animal, such as a cat or another dog;
- the dog bites or attempts to bite a person;
- the dog otherwise attacks a person (“pouncing” on a child, for example, or chasing someone into the street); or
- the victim (if human) did not commit an unlawful act that contributed to his injury.
It is important to note that the dog owner is subject to all damages – not just dog bite damages. If a dog chases someone into oncoming traffic, for example, the dog owner might even be held liable for damages inflicted upon that person by a passing car.
Strict liability vs the “one-bite rule”
14 states apply the “one-bite rule,” but Iowa is not among them. Under the one-bite rule, the owner is not liable for a dog bite as long as the owner was not negligent and as long as the dog had never exhibited aggressive tendencies before. Iowa, by contrast, applies “strict liability” to dog bites. Under strict liability, the owner can be held liable for a dog bite, even if he was not negligent, and even if the dog had never before exhibited any aggressive tendencies.
Who can you sue?
Although most dog bite lawsuits are filed against the dog owner, certain other parties can also be named as defendants under the Iowa dog bite statute, depending on the circumstances. These parties include:
- The dog’s keeper: This could mean, for example, someone to whom the dog owner entrusted the care of the dog while he was out of town or, possibly, someone who regularly feeds an otherwise stray dog. A dog kennel or dog pound could be sued in its corporate capacity under Iowa dog bite law.
- Parents of child dog owners: Normally, a minor cannot be sued for damages in an Iowa court. If the dog owner is a minor, however, the victim can sue the dog owner’s parents, even if the parents had never even seen the dog in question.
- Property owners: If a property owner allows a dog onto his property and the dog injures someone, the property owner can be held liable.
- Landlords: A landlord is responsible for damages caused by a dangerous dog on the landlord’s property, as long as the landlord either knew or should have known of the presence of the dog.
Available Financial Compensation for a Dog Bite
Compensation for a dog bite covers a number of physical and psychological losses, including:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost income;
- Child care expenses (if you have children and were hospitalized or bedridden, for example);
- Travel expenses to and from hospitals etc.;
- Loss of companionship (filed against the dog owner by the victim’s spouse);
- Pain and suffering (anguish caused by your physical injuries); and
- Mental anguish if, for example, a child dog bite victim develops a lifelong phobia due to a dog bite.
The usual compensation is limited to money damages. Only in extreme cases will the owner be arrested or the dog “put to sleep.”
If the Defendant Is a Friend or Family Member
Over half of dog bite injuries happen at home or nearby, by dogs who are familiar to the victim. You might hesitate to sue your next-door neighbor on a dog bite claim out of fear that you might drive your neighbor into bankruptcy. In most cases, however, you have nothing to worry about. Both the homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies typically cover dog bites – in fact, dog bites are among the most common types of claims for these sorts of policies.
Some policies, however, apply certain exclusions. Many policies exclude coverage for certain breeds of dogs such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, for example.
Amount of a typical dog bite claim
In Iowa, the average dog bite claim payout was over $45,000 in 2019, compared with a national average of just under $44,000. This amount is well within the policy limits of most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies. Your neighbor may suffer, however, from increased insurance rates.
The dog owner may have a defense available to him that, if successfully pursued, would relieve him of liability. Perhaps the most common defense is that the victim was bitten while in the process of committing an unlawful act that contributed to the injury. Dog owners do not, for example, have to pay burglars. A child trespasser attracted to an object on the property such as a swimming pool, for example, may still be able to receive compensation.
A defendant may also be able to avoid liability under another statute if, for example, the dog had rabies and the owner knew it, but the victim was bitten despite the owner’s exercise of reasonable care to prevent the bite.
Contact 303 Legal, P.C., Immediately
The skilled injury legal team at 303 Legal, P.C., have extensive experience settling dog bite claims and, if necessary, litigating them (this is seldom necessary, by the way). When a dog bite claim arises, it is important for you to act quickly to preserve evidence and to commence an investigation of your claim.
Don’t delay, call today! Contact 303 Legal, P.C., so that we can conduct an investigation and aggressively pursue your dog bite claim. Contact us online, call our office directly, or visit our office in Cedar Rapids, IA. There is no time like the present to make a decisive move.